Gary Hume – Are the issues to big for any of us?

Hermaphrodite Polar Bear

Gary Hume is a successful British artist who does not usually engage with environmental issues. He became involved with Cape Farewell and created some artworks in an attempt to engage with the issues.  As reported in an article in The Guardian, he found this a challenge:

“How do you depict global catastrophe?” he says. “I’m too selfish to describe the world’s dilemma, so I describe my own paltry dilemma of what it’s like to be alive.”

The image above – Hermaphrodite Polar Bear – is intended to bring attention to the significant changes affecting life on Earth as a result of damaging human activity. “The Industrialist” (below) is a lead tracing of smoke coming out of an industrial chimney. He describes it as an epitaph for industrialists.

But Hume is not really convinced by his own work. First of all he is wary of artists’ fascination with death, global catastrophe, etc. Depicting disaster is maybe the easy path to take. But most revealing is his take on the trip to the Arctic with Cape Farewell. Clearly he found the trip beautiful and was no doubt saddened by the prospect of the damage being done by climate change but found it ‘hard to relate to my life’.

So here’s the question: is all the talk of ‘global catastrophe’ making the problem seem so huge and insurmountable that it starts to be feel totally of reach – impossible for people to relate to their life? Is one possible result that people simply shut these issues out of their minds – the only coping mechanism they may have left to get on with their life?

Is it time for a new narrative?

One Comment

  1. new narrative – create your own landfill in your own backyard. Have you looked at My Plastic Free Life with Beth Terry? She holds a perpetual plastic waste reduction competition on her webpage and can be found on FB as well. You can read some of my articles on plastic reduction at
    Author name search: Benne Rockett

    Thank you for opening the dialogue.

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